11. Isn't the environment getting worse?
In many ways the environment is actually getting better. Many actions have been taken to preserve the environment, and they have been mostly effective. Our water and air are cleaner and worldwide the loss of forests is slowing down. The big unknown is global warming. Certainly the earth has been getting warmer over the last 100 years, but it's unclear what will happen in the future.
12. What does all this mean for the average person?
I recommend that people make sure to be aware of the many good things that are happening. Certainly some things are getting worse, but far more are getting better. We have a lot to be thankful for. A clearheaded view of the world is not only encouraging, but it also guides us to the problems that really do need the most attention. Many of our worsening problems revolve around issues of overconsumption and broken relationships. As such, we might want to work on simplifying our own lives and investing even more in relationships.
13. You say with your research that you didn't have strong preconceptions about whether the world is getting better or worse and you tried to follow the data. Was there anything in your research that really surprised you?
I was surprised by two things. One was how much healthier we are now compared to even a few decades ago (with obesity being the exception). I have heard so many stories about health scares that I had overlooked this. Two, I was surprised by the various environmental changes for the better, such as air and water quality. As someone who regularly breathes and drinks water, I am glad for these.
Bradley R. E. Wright, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut. After receiving tenure, Brad switched his academic focus from crime to religion in order to research American Christianity. Brad received his PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, the top ranked sociology graduate program in the United States.
He has a popular blog (brewright.com) based on his research. His first book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ...and Other Lies You've Been Told received the 2011 Christianity Today Book Award. He's appeared on numerous national media outlets, including USAToday.com, Foxnews.com, Moody's Chris Fabry Live! and the Drew Marshall Show. Brad is married, has two children, and lives in Connecticut.
Visit the Patheos Book Club on Upside for more, including a book excerpt and Roundtable Conversation.